Module 1: Introduction to the Website

This website is a supplemental resource for participants in the Health Emergencies in Large Populations (HELP) Course. Developed originally by the International Committee of the Red Cross in 1986, the HELP Course is now administered in locations across the world, with input from a variety of academic and practitioner institutions.


Module 2: Definitions and the Context of Humanitarian Assistance

To victims of emergencies, there may be little point in distinguishing a typology of disaster genesis – pain, injury and loss are immediate problems requiring direct remediation. Yet, experience shows that different types of disaster events have markedly different responses, in terms of donor response, in terms of permissive or non permissive operating environments, and in terms of media (and thereby public) attention.


Module 3: Participants in the Humanitarian Community

The first and most important group of participants in Humanitarian work is the affected population in the local area, a fact far too often overlooked. The many and diverse organizations that arrive at the scene of events, and those that make policy or provide resources from afar, all work in relation to the affected population. That relationship, between the affected population and those who would assist in times of emergency, can range from productive and mutually rewarding to hostile and mutually suspicious.


Module 4: Assessment in the Humanitarian Emergency Context

Timely and accurate assessment of needs should be the basis for any humanitarian intervention. Whether in the critical life-saving window of time immediately after a sudden onset disaster, or in the follow-on stages of an ongoing crisis wherein stability and sustainable support are being established, putting the wrong commodities into the wrong place at the wrong time is worse than useless, it is a costly disruption


Module 5: Gender Issues in Humanitarian Relief

Reports of mortality in post-tsunami villages in South Asia in 2004 provide startling statistical evidence of gender disparities in the impacts of disaster: in village after village women made up in excess of 70% of reported deaths. Gender, the socially constructed differences between men and women which arise from learned behaviors, has real world consequences in the context of disaster.


Module 6: Controlling Disease

In the stressed conditions of an emergency affected population, even simple diseases may be difficult to manage. Populations made vulnerable by injury, hunger or thirst, eking out survival in makeshift habitations without proper sanitation may fall victim to such ailments as measles or diarrheal infections, which would be straightforward to control in normal conditions. Vigilant surveillance to identify risk factors and prompt application of prevention measures are needed.


Module 7: Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

Water is the basic required commodity for survival; no population can endure without it. When disaster disrupts normal supply systems and water is unavailable, even for short periods, a population’s health equilibrium is rapidly threatened. Without water to drink, cook with, clean up with or carry out daily needs, all other needs become secondary.


Module 8: Refugees and Displacement

When violence or distress becomes intolerable, people can be faced with the hard decision to flee their homes in search of refuge. Often escaping with no more than the clothes they are wearing, and whatever they can carry, the lucky ones manage to keep family units intact. Others are not so lucky. What can be done to assist?


Module 9: Food and Nutrition

When food insecurity results in deteriorating nutritional status, illness and mortality can be adversely affected. What kinds of food interventions are appropriate will depend upon a complex matrix of factors, some of which are strictly clinical; others will be based on cultural factors, economic factors and logistical capacity.


Module 10: Public Information & Media Relations in Humanitarian Emergencies

Humanitarian emergencies are newsworthy in many ways, from the compelling stories of human tragedy to the enormous economic impacts to wide-ranging geopolitical considerations. However, the news media is not simply a passive conduit for neutral information – perceptions and responses can be influenced by the character of the reporting. Accurate and timely reporting, or the lack of it, can determine levels of donor funding and even agency operational decisions.


University of Hawaii at Manoa; Center of Excellence in DMHA; ICRC

Contact Information

Disaster Management & Humanitarian Assistance
University of Hawai'i at Manoa
2424 Maile Way, Saunders Hall 118
Honolulu, HI 96822